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The 5 Pillars of Collaborative Product Ownership

The 5 Pillars of Collaborative Product Ownership

While business knowledge and domain expertise is useful and essential, is this only achievable with a 'single wringable neck'? What would happen if the whole team could be encouraged to take ownership of product direction?

For full details of the talk as well as past and future dates, see http://www.wisenoodles.com/talks/the-product-owner-is-an-agile-anti-pattern


John Le Drew

June 16, 2017


  1. THE 5 PILLARS OF COLLABORATIVE PRODUCT OWNERSHIP @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com

  2. JOHN LE DREW I have worked in software engineering for

    almost 20 years, in that time I have worn many different hats. HELLO! @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com

  4. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com PRODUCT OWNER

  5. WHAT MAKES A GREAT PRODUCT OWNER? @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com


    @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com QUEEN
  7. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com The product owner is a role on

    a product development team responsible for managing the product backlog in order to achieve the desired outcome that a product development team seeks to accomplish. REALLY? Source: Agile Alliance So, by this definition, is the whole team deciding on the outcome? Or just the product owner? How do we work out what the right thing? How do we know what the desired outcome should be?
  8. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com Clearly identify and describe product backlog items

    in order to build a shared understanding of the problem and solution with the product development team. SERIOUSLY?! Source: Agile Alliance So, now it would seem that the PO is responsible for: identifying the the problems then defining them then solving the problem and communicating the problem and solution to the team. If they have solved the problem already why even bother to communicate it to the team, it’s solved isn’t it?
  9. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com Make decisions regarding the priority of product

    backlog items in order to deliver maximum outcome with minimum output. HOW? Source: Agile Alliance How does a product owner make these decisions? How do you know what will deliver the maximum outcome? How do you know what will involve the minimum output?
  10. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com Determine whether a product backlog item was

    satisfactorily delivered. HOW?? Source: Agile Alliance What does “satisfactorily delivered” actually mean? Delivered to spec? Does it mean that the item delivered the maximum outcome? What is the definition of success?
  11. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com Ensure transparency into the upcoming work of

    the product development team. HOW??? Source: Agile Alliance Is the upcoming work coming from the product owner? Is that where the work comes from?
  12. WHERE DOES THE WORK COME FROM? @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com How

    do they (whoever they are) know what to do?
  13. ARE WE GOOD AT KNOWING WHAT TO DO? @antz29 ///

  14. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com Source: Standish Group “Exceeding Value” WE’RE ACTUALLY

    PRETTY USELESS. FEATURES USED 50% 30% 20% Hardly Ever Infrequently Often This is taken from a study called “Exceeding Value” from the Standish Group. There are some challengers who dispute the construction of the study, but even taken with a high error margin I think that 80% of delivered features hardly ever or infrequently ever used is a pretty stark judgement on the software industries ability to “know” what our users want.
  15. :( @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com SAD TIMES. So, all this is

    pretty depressing. What can we do to improve this?
  16. SO THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS… @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com We

    need to focus on the most important and powerful thing about agile ways of working. And something that we always seem to forget.
  17. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com FREDERICK WINSLOW TAYLOR “…the ordinary pig-iron handler

    is not the type of man well suited to shovelling. He is too stupid; there is too much mental strain, too much knack required of a shoveler for the pig-iron handler to take kindly to shovelling.” SCIENTIST Frederick Winslow Taylor He's an early 20th century industrialist, known as the father of “scientific management”. What we forget (or perhaps ignore), is that Taylor was one of the first to really popularise the empirical method in business.
  18. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com 1.54 2.21 0.75 0.53 0.48 4.31 6.02

    9.21 σ 1.1 σ 0.4 σ 0.6 σ 0.3 σ 0.8 σ 0.2 σ 6.2 σ 0.3 Taylor worked in a metal working factory at the turn of the century, and he wanted to improve efficiency. So, he started by breaking down every process into its component parts. He then measured each part to the hundredth of a minute and he measured each of the different stations. This was referred to later as a “Time and motion study” of the work. He discovered huge inconsistency across the factory floor, each of the workers were doing the same jobs differently. And each had their own approach, their own ‘style’ of work. Some used different tools, some used a different process. His idea was to identify the “one true way” for each process. The most efficient method which he would discover and dictate to the workers.
  19. HYPOTHESIS @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com EXPERIMENT LEARNING He looked at what

    he knew currently, and formed hypotheses; that if he made a small change (insisting the workers use a particular shovel for example, or carry no more or less that a certain amount) it would improve efficiency. He then tested this hypothesis, with an experiment. This then demonstrated the validity of his hypothesis, which produced learning. Importantly, sometimes this invalidated his hypothesis, sometimes it validated it. Either way there was learning. This new information is fed back, to make more hypotheses, and the cycle continues.
  20. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com LEARNING CONTINUOUS This created an environment of

    continuous learning, which in Taylor’s situation, led to dramatically increased efficiency, which was the goal of his work. But, he also triggered a number of workers strikes; the more experienced workers feeling that they lost their individual style and expression, which was obviously being suppressed. The environment of continuous learning and discovery he created was limited to the upper echelons of the organisation. The only people (in Taylor’s view) with the mental capacity for this planning work.
  21. WHAT WAS TAYLOR MISSING? @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com So, Taylor was

    almost on the right track. But, he was missing something. So, let’s fast forward a few decades to find out.

    DO YOU KNOW I GOT IT ALL I'M ASKIN' IS FOR A LITTLE RESPECT. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com ARETHA FRANKLIN At about the same time Aretha Franklin released this, on the other side of the pacific there was another movement underway.
  23. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com TAIICHI OHNO “People don't go to Toyota

    to work, they go there to think.” Taiichi Ohno Between 1948 and 1975 Eiji Toyoda and him developed the Toyota Production System (which later became Lean Manufacturing in the US).
  24. THE TOYOTA WAY @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com In 2001, Toyota wrapped

    up its philosophy, values and manufacturing ideals and called it the Toyota Way. There are 14 principles, grouped into two key areas. (This deck does not attempt to cover all of these, there is a lot of wisdom here and I highly recommend that you dig deeper)
  25. CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT AND RESPECT FOR PEOPLE @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com The

    two pillars of the Toyota Way are Continuous Improvement and Respect for People. This is their constant effort to improve their processes and reduce waste. They achieve this in a number of ways, some may seem familiar from our earlier exploration of Taylor.

    AND KAIZEN CONTINOUS IMPROVEMENT AND RESPECT FOR PEOPLE The process of becoming a learning organisation involves criticising every aspect of what one does. Nothing is sacred. They constantly reflect on practices and look into ways of improving their approach. They have a well know Suggestion System program at Toyota and employees are encouraged to make suggestions to reduce waste or improve quality etc. They have been reporting over 1 million ideas per year across their staff and they implement over 90% of the ideas submitted. This is because they respect the front-line staff as the most qualified people in the organisation to make those suggestions (and implement the changes).

    RESPECT FOR PEOPLE When problems are discovered, they: - head straight to the place of the problem to see what is going on, this, is normally seen at Toyota when an employee pulls the Andon on cord. - Determine the underlying cause. - Consider a broad range of alternatives (by pulling in other staff if needed, the line is stopped so everyone can focus on the problem.) - Build consensus on a potential solution. - After taking the time to come up with a proposed solution, go implement it fast. Once there is consensus around a proposed solution it is built into what Toyota call “standardised work”.

    PEOPLE Standardised work are tasks that are clearly defined and all workers follow the same process. They define it like this: “Standardised tasks and processes are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.” The standardised work is defined and maintained by the people doing the work. All employees are treated as experts in the work they do and encouraged to present ideas for improvement.
  29. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com So, let’s imagine a scene, an employee

    on the factory floor has pulled the Andon cord and halted the line. At this point a manager walks down to the floor to discuss the issue with the employee. So, they will be like “What’s up?” “There’s this dint in the car door, it looks like a fault in the machining further up the line” Next they challenge the employees' answer and enter into a dialogue about what the real problem is. (It's rarely the problem showing on the surface.) “I was just at that station and didn’t see any issues, could anything else cause it?” “Well, it could be occurring when the door fixings are mounted perhaps.” Then they ask what is causing this problem and enter into another dialogue about its root causes. At this point, they may well walk to the other station to see what is going on, remember, the whole line is stopped so everyone is focused on solving this problem. The engineer on the door fixing station looks at the machine, and can see the dint appearing in the doors downstream of his station.
  30. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com At this point, they may well walk

    to the other station to see what is going on, remember, the whole line is stopped so everyone is focused on solving this problem. The engineer on the door fixing station looks at the machine, and can see the dint appearing in the doors downstream of his station. Now they have found a potential source of the problem, the manager asks “What can we do about this?” This could be a relatively quick process, or it could involve many team members each presenting some potential solution. Or, they might need to dig into the problem a bit more and gather some evidence. The aim of this, is to get consensus from the team Once they have consensus around the solution, they then discuss how they (the manager and the employees) will know when the problem has been solved? Again, they discuss with a goal to form consensus around this indicator. Finally, once they have consensus, they set out to implement the solution.
  31. JAMES WOMACK “Over time I've come to realise that this

    problem solving process is actually the highest form of respect.” @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com James Womack, the founder of the Lean Enterprise Institute and is often credited for popularising Lean Thinking in the west.
  32. MUTUAL RESPECT @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com MANAGER: I RESPECT YOUR CLOSE

  33. YOU HAVE TO SOLVE PROBLEMS TOGETHER. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com If

    you are not solving problems collaboratively, then you are missing out on both the greatest strengths of your team and agile’s (not so secret) super power.
  34. ALL RIGHT STOP, COLLABORATE AND LISTEN. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com VANILLA

    ICE Yep, you got it. Collaboration! Perhaps, not the biggest surprise, but something we seem to frequently forget. So, how can we bring collaboration into our product ownership? It’s meant to be a one person show right? Let’s tie all of this together…
  35. HYPOTHESIS @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com EXPERIMENT LEARNING Start by bringing a

    hypothesis to your team, an idea that might solve the problem or bring you closer to your goal. The team’s job is to figure out the simplest way (minimum output) to validate or invalidate this hypothesis. They do this with an experiment. This provides learning, which is the outcome. The team have not failed if they invalidate the hypothesis. Learning is the outcome here, and learning will always move you closer to your goal. Knowing what doesn’t work, is just as important as knowing what does. As you learn more, you will be able to have more certainty in your hypotheses, or as the scientific community call it…
  36. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com CONSENSUS In science, someone will produce a

    theory. This theory is presented as a paper and published in a journal at which point it is normally peer reviewed. Over time, other scientists may well test the theory with experiments. As more results come in, the scientific community will form a consensus on the original theory. Nothing is ever considered certain, just most likely given the current shared understanding of the available information. Don’t hold anything sacred in your teams, allow consensus to form naturally, and make sure it’s safe for anyone to question these ideas at any time. If there isn’t consensus in the team, perhaps, it’s not the best idea?
  37. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com THE PILLARS OF COLLABORATIVE 

  38. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com RESPECT PEOPLE Don’t bring your team solutions

    to implement, show the team you respect their ability to solve the problems you bring them.
  39. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com EMBRACE UNCERTAINITY Nothing is more damaging to

    our organisations than fake certainty. We need to accept the inherent uncertainty that reality presents. Not pretend we have certainty when it doesn’t exist. Embrace uncertainty and reality will hug you back!
  40. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com SMALL EXPERIMENTS Work with your team to

    overcome uncertainty by collaborating on small experiments that will gradually build a shared understanding of the problem space throughout the team.
  41. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com CONTINUOUS LEARNING With every experiment comes learning,

    even if it invalidates your theory. Learning will always move you towards your goal (even when it seems you haven’t).
  42. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com NO COMPLACENCY Allow consensus to build naturally

    across the team, but ensure it’s safe to question anything. Even things that seem certain. Especially the things that seem certain. Don’t get complacent.
  43. @antz29 /// www.wisenoodles.com Source: Agile Alliance RESPECT PEOPLE EMBRACE UNCERTAINTY

    SMALL EXPERIMENTS CONTINUOUS LEARNING NO COMPLACENCY Product Owners can respect the people on a team by collaborating with them on solving problems and embracing the uncertainty of reality. Teams can overcome uncertainty by using small experiments to test their hypotheses which leads to continuous learning and builds consensus on the validity (or invalidity) a theory. But, no team should ever be complacent with the present state of understanding, and it should always be safe to question anything however certain it might seem.